Sunday, November 1, 2009

Will I ever get it right?

Friday night, a dear friend of mine died of breast cancer.

For many years, she was my neighbor. Our children grew up together. She had three boys who matched up pretty closely in age with three of my sons. For a few years, it seemed like one of them was with one of my boys almost 24/7. We love those kids. When I go back through family pictures from that era, there are many pictures of her boys mixed in with our family pictures.

About ten or eleven years ago, her husband (the boys' father) died of cancer. The day he died is a tender memory that I hold in a special place in my heart. Her youngest (who was 9 at the time) called to tell us that his daddy had died. He called in the middle of the night and because we did not hear the phone, he had to leave a message. If I concentrate, I can still hear his little voice giving us the news.

The next morning, as soon as I heard the message, I threw on my jeans and a sweatshirt and ran to their house. I spent the morning snuggled on the couch with the family while daddy's body rested in the other room as we waited for someone to come and pick him up. I loved that little family fiercely at that moment. I vowed (in my heart) to always love those boys and their mommy. I promised (to myself and to the Lord) that I would always be there if they needed me.
A few years later, with only one son still in high school, my friend moved away from our street. We lost touch. I still saw her kids now and again. Sometimes they would drop in to visit. Sometimes we would run into them. I didn't love them any less, but because they were not close, and we didn't spend much time together, it was less convenient to stay in touch. I allowed myself to grow apart from my friend. I saw her very rarely, and we would talk on the phone once or twice a year.

When she got breast cancer, her son told me. I called her. We talked for a long time. She was determined to beat it. She told me she would not let cancer take both parents from her sons. Over the months, I would get reports once in awhile from one of her kids and then I would call. She and I would talk as if we were still neighbors. It was as if time had not passed and we were still young. We would talk about our life hopes and dreams; about our children and their lives; about life in general. But, we never really talked of death.

A little later, I had a conversation with her. She told me that her treatment was not working. She was going to try some alternative treatments that had worked for a friend, but she was not sure how they would work. She sounded less sure that she was going to survive, but still determined to do everything she could to fight. She sounded more afraid. I still did not talk to her of death.

A few months ago, I spoke to her again. She said that nothing was working. She would do no more chemo. It made her horribly ill and was not stopping the cancer. She would choose quality of life over quantity of life. It was the last time I would speak to her and we did not talk of death.

Last week, I got a call from her second son. He was on his way home on emergency leave. The Red Cross had contacted his command and asked that he be allowed to go home for a few days to say goodbye to his mom. I asked him to call me once he saw her and let me know how she was. I did not call her. I prayed for her. I thought about her. But, I did not call her or go and see her. I knew I should. I knew it was urgent. I was prompted almost daily to find out where she was and to go and see her. But, it was a very busy, hectic week at home and at work and at church and every day I found an excuse not to call. I kept saying to myself, "Next week will be less busy for me. I'll call her then. And when I do, we will talk of death. I will share with her my knowlege of what waits for her. I will try to bring her comfort and peace as she passes from this realm to the next."

Saturday I was on my way out of the grocery store after doing my weekly grocery shopping. I was rushing because we needed to leave for a baptism in less than an hour. My day was so busy and filled with activities that I had not even allowed myself to think about visiting my friend. As I drove out of the store parking lot, my cell phone rang. It was my youngest daughter telling me that my friend's youngest son was at our home. I had the instant thought, "That's great! He can give me an update on my friend so I will know when is the best time to go see her next week."

Then my daughter said, "His mama died last night."

I am ashamed. I am heart broken. I am so so so sorry. Now, I will never talk to her of death. I will not bring her peace and comfort. I will not tell her I love her and hold her hand as we speak of things to come. I missed an opportunity to serve her and serve my Father in Heaven. I filled my life with things that really didn't matter and missed out on the one thing that did. I did not listen to the promptings of the Spirit which told me over and over and over to go to her.

I am not worried about her soul. She is a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves her. I knew her heart. I saw how she loved and tried to do what was best. I know that she no longer has pain or sorrow. I know that she has peace now and is now learning much about life and God and things to come.

No, I am not worried about her soul. I am worried about mine.

I have missed so many opportunities to serve in my life. Each time it happens, I tell myself that I will not allow my life to get in the way of my spirit again, but still it happens. I'm reminded of the these lyrics (by Steven Kapp Perry):

"How could I change?
How I had tried.
How I had failed Time after time.
Needing a strength More than my own,
Leaving my faith In God, alone.

How I had prayed Seeking for peace,
How could I change?
How could I be

Born of God, born of God,
A new creation as at first.
Born of God, praising God
For the wonder of a second birth.

O Jesus, thou Son of God,
Have mercy on me!
And remember my sins no more
And may my spirit be

Born of God, born of God,
A new creation as at first.
Born of God, praising God
For the One who came to give us second birth."

I am so thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for a Father in Heaven who loves me even when I am a slothful servant; who allows me to try again and again and again to change. I want to change. I want to become an instrument in the hands of my Father in Heaven. I want to be His hands and His feet and His mouth and to bring His peace to His children.

The second verse of the song goes:

"Seeing the past--How wrong I was.
Saying at last, "Thy will be done."
There was no voice, No shaking earth,
No wond'rous light At my rebirth.

Only a sigh Marking the change,
Only forgiveness Calling my name.

I want to say, "Thy will be done." And I know, with the help of my Savior, I can change. I can be born of God and be a new creature who will listen and obey. This is my prayer.